Sophie Aldred talks about Ace and, in particular, her 1996 book ‘Ace’, co-written with Mike Tucker. She also discusses the way Ace developed during her time on the show, which is kind of the opposite of the usual companion complaint, which is that their characters tended to fade away.
Q: What have you done since ‘Doctor Who’?
A: I was in a restoration comedy, an adaptation of ‘The Country Wife’, called ‘Lust’, and I played a character called Marjorie Pinchwife, a seemingly innocent girl who turned out to be a bit raunchy. I had a really good time, it was good to do a musical, a bit of singing, and we were in a fantastic theatre called the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, which is one of London’s most fantastic theatres. It was my first West End show, and I was playing the lead. So I’ve been doing that, and also a lot of children’s TV, I do a lot of presenting, mainly stuff with singing. And I did a show for children’s cable, I play a character called Sophie Socket and I work with two little puppets. And I do a live TV show on Friday nights, and I present a show about love and sex.
Q: And you’re writing a book?
A: It’s called ‘Ace’. A friend and I had loads of photos from ‘Doctor Who’ that hadn’t been published. They were from backstage, us fooling around, plus lots of model shots and visual effects, so I rang up the publisher and he said ‘Yeah, great’. We were going to do it about Sylvester’s years as the Doctor, and he said ‘No, do it about your character’, so yeah, it’s going really well. I’m working on ‘Ghost Light’ at the moment, it’s going to be my reminiscences and photos and bits and pieces. We’ve got the original breakdown of the outline for my character, we’ve got lots of interesting memorabilia, lots of costume designs and so on that have never been seen before. And the ‘New Adventures’ Ace is very different, she dresses up in rubber and carries a big meaty gun, so for one of the cover photos we’ve dressed me up as the ‘New Adventures’ Ace. The BBC helped us out. Mike (Tucker) works for the BBC, and he got hold of a Dalek and we set fire to a Dalek.
Q: Were you pleased with the way your character ended up?
A: I was very pleased. I talked to quite a few of the other companions, and they’ve always been disappointed with the way their characters ended up. They were always promised things. But with my character, I don’t know why, it just happened that people seemed to cotton onto the rebellious qualities and tomboyish side of it, it just seemed to appeal, and I was given a lot to do and that was nice. And the last season, in a way, was more about the Doctor taking my character around the universe and facing her fears. When she’s a teenager, there’s a lot of scope for problems with a character like that. The angst of the teenager.
Q: In Britain, the TV and film industry is having problems because the money isn’t there…
A: I think the government knows that people will always make films, even if no-one’s getting paid. I’m making a film over Easter with really good actors, and no-one’s getting paid. I think the statistics are something like in 1976 the BBC were making 112 dramas a year, now they’re making 4, so it’s gradually gone downhill, really, and nobody’s willing to put any money into the industry. Everything has to be aimed commercially now, there’s very little television around that isn’t commercial. So the majority of our television at the moment is drama about hospitals and police stations, and recreations of terrible accidents. We’ve got a show called ‘999’ where they recreate things, interview with the people, and people love it.